There’s no defense for latest start by Cubs, bombed again by the first-place Brewers

The Cubs have now lost nine of their last 11 games.

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Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers

Justin Steele rears back to fire during an unusually challenging first inning.

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

MILWAUKEE — How rough was the first inning of the Cubs’ 9-1 loss to the Brewers on Saturday?

Three Cubs up, three Cubs down swinging — whiff, whiff, whiff — against impressive lefty Eric Lauer in the top of the frame. And that was the encouraging part.

In a painful bottom of the frame, third baseman Patrick Wisdom played leadoff man Andrew McCutchen’s grounder into an error. With one out, center fielder Michael Hermosillo booted a Christian Yelich base hit, allowing runners to move up to second and third on another error. Hunter Renfroe followed with an RBI squibber along the first-base line that Cubs starter Justin Steele was unable to wrangle, more bad luck than anything.

After a Keston Hiura single made it 2-0, Steele thought he was out of the inning with a double-play ball. But a lengthy review — which didn’t appear to start until after the Cubs were completely off the field — determined that Lorenzo Cain had beaten the throw to first. Back out of the dugout and on the mound, Steele gave up an RBI single to Rowdy Tellez.

“It was kind of funny, wasn’t it?” Steele (1-3) said. “It’s just baseball. You’re gonna have them kinds of days.”

These Cubs? Against these Brewers? That was the ballgame right there.

Lauer (2-0) was special, striking out 11 Cubs over seven dominant innings. And the first-place Brewers (15-7) — who have outscored the Cubs 20-2 through two games of this series — look like they could be a special squad.

The Cubs (8-13) have lost nine of their last 11.

Plug and play

For only the second time in 21 games this season, right fielder Seiya Suzuki was in the cleanup spot. For those scoring at home — come on, you know you’re doing it — Suzuki has hit second nine times, fifth six times, sixth three times, fourth twice and seventh once.

Manager David Ross’ wants Suzuki to bat with some traffic on the bases, but it didn’t really work out in this one. He led off the second, flew out with two on and two out in the third, grounded into an inning-ending double play in the sixth and walked with a man on in the ninth.

Twenty-six picks

So, which Cubs players will be directly affected as teams trim their rosters from 28 to 26 on Monday?

“I’m not going to tell you, but you know that,” Ross said. “What, tell you and not the players?”

The Cubs made a couple of minor moves ahead of that on Saturday, recalling left-hander Locke St. John from Triple-A Iowa and optioning righty Mark Leiter Jr. to Iowa. St. John’s previous big-league experience came in 2019 with the Rangers, for whom he made seven relief appearances.

This and that

At some point, veteran pitchers Wade Miley and Alec Mills and shortstop Andrelton Simmons might all be on the Cubs’ 26-man roster. It gets harder to picture all the time, though, especially with Simmons lingering in Arizona with a shoulder that just won’t get right.

Simmons did take live batting practice Saturday, with several more days of that in the plans. Miley is with the team and slated for a bullpen session on Sunday, potentially with a rehab start after that. Mills — a Friday rehab start at Iowa having been scuttled because of tightness in his right quadriceps — is on hold.

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